"As hard as it has been, I’m at a point where I couldn’t be more grateful..." - Fireside with Tom
Updated: Aug 29, 2020
I’m Tom, I’m originally from a small town in upstate New York. On a whim, I moved out to the desert 7 years ago and haven’t looked back. I have a passion for true adventure, stepping into the unknown, working out, feeling good, chasing sunsets, philosophical discussion, and exploring the world.
Q.) How has mental health/illness impacted your life?
Many aspects of mental health/illness have had a huge impact on my life. As a kid, I grew up in a loving family living what, from the outside, was perceived as a great childhood (and really, on the outside it was), but there was something always ticking inside of me. I remember telling my mom I felt so different from my friends as a child. My mind even at such a young age was always going a million miles per minute and I couldn’t figure out how to stop it, which would give me even more anxiety. I would literally get frustrated at how fast my thoughts were going. Looking back, I realized that staying super active physically was my way of balancing my active mind. As I grew older, and started to experience teenage years and being a young adult, the thoughts became more and more negative and stressed me out. I would try to combat it by always staying busy, and I would workout everyday, but I definitely wasn’t as active in college as I was as a child. So I found other ways to escape. Unfortunately, some of which were incredibly unhealthy. Binge drinking on the weekends, heavily, taking a number of different prescription drugs on a daily basis, some to stimulate energy, and others to bring me back down. Smoking weed as another escape. After putting my body through enough abuse, for far too long, one day, while high on a weed brownie, my body had had enough, and I had a debilitating panic attack. It was terrifying. I went to the hospital and woke up the next day, with a completely different view of the world. I had panic disorder, agoraphobia, depression, generalized anxiety, and what was worst of all was the depersonalization, and I had no idea what it was, or how to get rid of it. I literally didn’t recognize myself, my family, my friends, my home, anything, and I was afraid of absolutely everything. This was the beginning of a completely different journey over the next 8 years, of healing. And as hard as it has been, living with it everyday, I’m at a point where I couldn’t be more grateful because in addition to everything I’ve learned in this time, from this, I’m finally realizing that the closer I come to healing, the more I’m able to help others who are going through the same thing. Q.) What are your positive outlets and how did you discover them? Some of my positive outlets include hiking, which was totally random. I moved to Arizona after college and had really never hiked before, but mountains always called to me, so I Googled the closest mountain, and the first day I had time, I hiked Camelback Mountain in AZ. I have been hooked ever since. Other outlets include adventure in general, exploring this world. Working out both inside and outside of the gym, ice baths, yoga, especially Yin Yoga is an absolute go to when I’m stressed. I also love getting lost in music, which has kind of always been an outlet for me. Q.) Do you think nature plays an important part in recovering from mental illnesses? For sure. There is something that can’t quite be put to words about how much diving into nature quiets the mind and brings answers that aren’t found in the confines of the city or books. It’s beautiful. Maybe it’s the vibes, maybe it’s our true home, maybe it’s just its beauty. Whatever it is, there’s something to it, and maybe not knowing what that is is even more beautiful in itself. Q.) If you had to create a "self care box" for yourself, what would be 3 things you'd put in it?
My trail runners
A picture of everyone I love
I don’t need much, but being reminded I have those people has helped me more than anything. Trails and music are great too. Q.) How do you feel that social media is impacting people’s mental health? Social media is super interesting. It’s amazing in the sense that, we’re all able to connect with one another, from anywhere, and talk about real life shit that maybe nobody I know in my immediate world could relate to. So that’s dope. But at the same time, there are children and young teens and older I’m sure, who have taken their lives over online bullying, which is devastating. So at the end of the day, it’s a platform that we can use. We get to choose how to use it. And being that it’s not going away, I think Chelsea reaching out to me, and reaching out to others to tell their stories to help people is one of the amazing ways we can choose to use it for good. Q.) What is something that someone has said to you that has always stuck with you when overcoming hard times? My dad had always reminded me to “do it for the people you haven’t met yet.” And having met my amazing girlfriend since, and possibly wanting kids in the future, I understand what he meant. And I like that a lot. Q.) What advice would you give someone that is struggling? It really is ok to rest. Be easy on yourself. Trust what’s happening. And never give up. It really is happening for a reason, I promise you. And someday you will see it, and it’s even more beautiful than you can even imagine.